Spring officially arrived on March 21, the date of the vernal equinox, but the real harbinger of spring is not that date, the first robin sighting is the start of the Major League Baseball season. No way.
It's the early April frenzied Media Days at the annual New York Auto Show and timing that also signals the start of Easter and Passover festivities – causing angst to some of the 4,000 motoring media mavens (M3's) who pre-registered.
Most of the M3's will stand, sit and shuffle their way for two days through 480 minutes (24 press conferences at :20-minutes each) of wheel spiels for:
• Reveals, "Presenting the new 2008 whatever in amazing aborigine."
• Appeals, "Join me in welcoming – insert name – our new vice president of …"
• Meals, "Enjoy the luscious free lunch that cost us a small fortune."
• Deals, "Press kits, DVDs and videos are available after this conference"
• …And of course, suffer from a terminal case of carpel hand-shaking syndrome, sore feet, deadened auditory senses and all, augmented by terrible public transportation and expensive hotel rooms.
But, hey … it's the New York Auto Show and its NEW YORK. It's the biggest show on or off Broadway or uptown or downtown or midtown, with more bright lights, auto company stars and certainly cars.
The Elite of Auto Execs Have Gathered
New York's show attracts probably more corporate ‘C's" – you know, CEOs, COOs, CMO's, CSO's, CIO's, CRO's and CCA's than any auto show. This is the business media capital of the world so auto's top execs get face time somewhere, sometime, somehow in print, radio, Internet, cable news, broadcast news and internal news shows too from the Javits Center during the two day show.
A few blocks uptown at a Times Square hotel, the annual Morgan Stanley Global Automotive Conference is also underway. This prestigious two-day conference attracts the biggest, best and brightest of automotive executives from the manufacturing, retailing, media and supplier industries both domestically and internationally. Why? Simple. With billions at stake the investment community needs to know.
This is more than an industry networking meet and greet – it's strictly business. A Who's Who list of speakers and panelists cover a variety of topics ranging from marketing to manufacturing to retailing and everything in-between.
Respected automotive executives scheduled to speak include Roger Penske, CEO, United Auto Group; John Mendel, EVP, American Honda Motor Co.; Allan Mulally, CEO Ford Motor Co.; Frank Witter, CEO & CFO Volkswagen of America; Bob Carter, GVP and GM, Lexus Division of Toyota; and, Mark Igo, VP & GM, Infiniti Division of Nissan.
One of the highlights of the conference is the annual Wall Street Awards dinner at New York's award winning restaurant, Cipriani at 42nd, which Wednesday night recognized leading automotive stock performers from 2006, innovative dealers, and included a panel of the industry's leading automotive journalists as well as a group of high-profile ultra-luxury brand execs.
Concept Cars Constellation
No one knows if they'll ever be produced, but some of the most dazzling displays of incredibly stunning automobiles – the stars of the show – for the near or long term or maybe never, make even the most cynical, jaded gearhead stop and stare. Among those on display this year are the following:
Honda – The Accord Coupe Concept demonstrates the styling direction for the upcoming, eighth-generation Accord. A more powerful and lower-emissions V6 promises to provide higher fuel efficiency. For safety, a front-end frame structure that helps absorb and disperse crash energy in a frontal impact.
Toyota – The concept FT-HS, is a mid-price sports car with either a potent hybrid powertrain or a V6 with 400 hp – both come with essential sports car fundamentals. This two-plus-two concept is a front-engine, rear-drive sports car with a projected zero-to-60 acceleration in the four-second range. Ecology and emotion combine.
Mazda – The Nagare concept features butterfly-wing doors, a hydrogen-powered fuel cell drive train and a novel one-plus-three seating arrangement - the driver sits alone up front, with the rear given over to 'lounge-seating' for three.
Kia – The Rondo SX Concept features an aggressive front and rear fascias, sportier grille inserts and other exciting exterior details. Key front-end changes include a larger lower air intake, an integrated SX-styled front fascia, new brake cooling ducts as well as a restyled metal-mesh-insert front grille to match.
Mazda – The Mazda Hakaze is a four-seat coupe style compact crossover SUV. Outside, the side body panels are textured to give the impression of sand dunes rippled by the wind and the body shape creates a muscular and taut look. The rear part of its roof is removable which gives it a feel similar to a roadster.
Suzuki – Inspired by Suzuki's championship-winning sport bikes, the Zuk concept offers solid functionality both on the road and the track. The sporty Zuk is powered by a 300-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled engine matched to a five-speed manual transmission.
Saab – The Saab BioPower 100 Concept showcases the first production-based turbo engine to be optimized for pure, eco-friendly bioethanol (E100) fuel. The result is a level of performance never seen before from a road car using this fuel: 300 horsepower with greatly reduced carbon dioxide emissions.
Lexus – The new LF-A is a supercar with world-class performance. A top speed of 200 mph is not only possible but probable with a 500-plus horsepower V10 engine. Its front mid-engine placement, along with a rear-mounted transaxle and radiators, allows for excellent weight distribution. The convertible version LF-C was also on display.
Automotive Television Advertising Awards
Years ago, a former colleague turned entrepreneur, started his own advertising agency with a great name: The Ad Works. It would be great if it rang true all the time, no matter the medium. Unfortunately, it's not and it doesn't.
While some media types will say the market is shifting, others say fickle, and the more realistic and practical like Jan Thompson, vice president of marketing at Nissan, disagree. At the show yesterday morning she told me, "The media market has been augmented with the Internet and other techno-innovations, but what has changed is our ability as advertisers to now target our customers precisely. It's narrow focus, not a one-size-fits-all which it doesn't do."
One of the mediums hit dramatically, other than automotive buff books, with ad revenue is television. Sure, it's still huge and the biggest category, but it is losing its potency.
That's why IAG Research, a television ad effectiveness measurement company decided to honor their clients and potential ones in the automobile business and ran the first IAG Automotive Advertising Awards. Over 1,400 commercials were reviewed to see who had the best synergy between the advertiser and the consumer. The winners were announced during the NYIAS breakfast:
Most Effective Overall Ad: Luxury
Lexus LS 460 – Self-Parking Demonstration
Most Effective Overall Ad: Non-Luxury
Ford Escape Hybrid – Kermit the Frog It's Not Easy Being Green
Most Liked Ad: Luxury or Non-Luxury
Honda Pilot – The Troll Stops a Family
Most Effective Established Nameplate Launch Campaign
Volkswagen Passat Wagon – Safe Happens
Taxi! They're Inside Javits, Seldom Outside
Non-rich denizens of New York City, specifically the island of Manhattan, seldom own a car or drive in the city. It's just too expensive. Space in a garage, when available, is known to cost several hundred dollars a month, insurance costs are insane, rules for parking on the street are notoriously complex and convoluted which results in easy-to-get parking tickets with very costly fines.
Enter the ubiquitous yellow cabs of New York. Like ‘em or not, clean or dirty, smelly or fresh, cool or hot, when visiting the Big Apple you've gotta, gonna take ‘em. And in honor of the 100th anniversary of the modern-day taxi, a group called the Design for Public Trust is exhibiting several innovative prototypes of future taxis at the NY Auto Show.
Contributing to the imaginative display are manufacturers, design consultants, technology contributors and academic partners. Nine different taxi prototypes will be displayed with other taxi-related material.
And, if you're really lucky, in honor of Mayor Bloomberg's designation of "Taxi Week" in NYC during the public days of the auto show, you will be able to see the Empire State Building lit up in yellow. Now, that's a NY moment. Taxi!